Update: Dixie the dog, burned in alleged retaliation, still in critical condition

Dixie the dog was taken from a Tooele residence. Photo: Salt Lake County

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 4, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Dixie the dog, found burned in Magna after she was reported stolen by a Tooele woman, remains in critical condition Thursday afternoon, a statement from the Salt Lake County Animal Services said.

“Dixie, the dog intentionally set on fire Monday evening, remains in critical condition at a local veterinary hospital,” the statement said. “Animal control officers from Salt Lake County Animal Services and police officers found the dog two hours after the initial call came in. The dog is suffering from extensive second and third degree burns to most of her body.”

Callista Pearson, Salt Lake County Animal Services Communications Manager, said: “The animal control officers and staff are devastated by what happened to Dixie. No pet should suffer at the hands of a human. Throughout the years, our animal control officers and clinic staff have seen mistreated, and abused animals but this was not only horrific, but it was also an intentional attack against a companion animal.”

Michael Busico, 40, who used to date the mother of the dog owner, has been arrested in the case, and so far faces charges of:

  • Torture of a companion animal, a third-degree felony
  • Arson, damages between $1,500 and $5,000 or prior conviction, a third-degree felony
  • Theft, a class B misdemeanor
  • Criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor

Tooele Police officers were dispatched Monday on a theft call after a report that a 21-year-old woman’s dog had disappeared after a visit from her mother’s ex-boyfriend, said a probable cause statement.

“The victim stated Mr. Busico was at the house while she was leaving,” the probable cause statement says. “The victim stated Mr. Busico had come over to give treats to the dogs (which the victim believed to be highly suspicious as Mr. Busico did not normally give the dog treats). The victim stated she left the residence while Mr. Busico was still there.

“When the victim returned, she noticed her dog was gone. The dog was on the victim’s property within an enclosed fence. The victim stated her dog had been stolen and there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Busico had stolen the dog in retaliation to their failing relationship.”

Later, an officer was dispatched to 9500 W. Frontage Road, Magna, north of Interstate 80, on a report that a dog had been set on fire.

“A witness on scene described a male fitting the arrestee’s description fleeing the scene in a green Toyota Tacoma. After a while, the dog was located with burns on it’s body,” the officer wrote, speculating that vet bills would be in the thousands of dollars.

“Through investigation, it was found that the arrestee was in a dispute with the mother of the victim over $1,200 dollars and a past relationship that had ended. The suspect’s vehicle was located at the arrestee’s father’s residence.”

Busico was booked into jail Tuesday, records show, and will be held without bail.

“The acts of violence committed against Dixie are horrific and should be taken very seriously,” said Liz Sollis, Utah Domestic Violence Coalition spokesperson. “Studies regularly indicate a direct link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. These are acts of power and control. What happened to this dog could and has happened to victims of domestic violence. If anyone is witnessing or experiencing abuse or violence, including abuse or violence of pets, we remind them that victim service providers are here for them 365 days a year.”

Free and confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence is available, 24/7 at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). If you or someone else is in immediate danger, or in an emergency, call 911.

Animal Services would like to remind pet owners that violence against their pets by a loved one is a serious issue and asks that these cases be reported. To report an animal abuse or cruelty case call 385-468-7387 or email [email protected]

To donate directly to Dixie, call 801-942-3951. Donations sent to animal services on behalf of Dixie were forwarded to the emergency animal hospital that is caring for her.

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